Where’s Bobby Martinez when you need him? The outcry over the judging calls in the losing endeavors of both Matt Wilkinson and Gabriel Medina at the Hurley Pro has been swift and critical in the last 24 hours, but it’s also been, dare we say, polite. Nary an f-bomb’s been dropped by anyone on tour…at least in public.
Forget for a moment if the calls were correct or not, they’re not changing now. When Medina, Wilko, Julian Wilson, Michel Bourez and a handful of others took to social media to voice their discontent, they walked a fine line. Article 171 of the 2016 WSL Rulebook states that surfers “shall not engage in any conduct which could cause damage to the image of the sport of surfing.”
The WSL goes on to describe this “as any act, regardless of time or place, which casts the sport of surfing or WSL in a negative light. Without restricting the application of this Article, ‘damage to the sport of surfing’ will include any comments or broadcast from social media accounts that the Surfer is responsible for.”
The fines for damaging the image of surfing range from $1,000 to $50,000.
It’s all so arbitrary, so subjective. Perhaps not unlike the judging at times. Clearly, the WSL writes the rules, and if you don’t like them you can go surf somewhere else, but the problem with this stance is that it’s void of perspective.
First of all, controversy sells, so if the WSL was smart, they’d capitalize on this moment and come out with a statement rather than get punished by the punditry. To date, they have not made an official statement on the matter (while over 3,500 comments on one WSL Instagram post tell a very different story). When we contacted, the WSL replied, "no comment."
And this whole damaging surfing’s image thing, the WSL thirsts for personality but what they’re missing is, personality can’t happen when you’ve got everyone muzzled.
“Radical people do radical shit, man,” Herbie Fletcher once surmised. We were sitting on the beach at Lowers watching Andy and Bruce Irons, Christian, and Nathan Fletcher, and a slew of other top shelf San Clemente talent pushing each other.
Herb’s point was that Andy, Bruce, Christian, none of them played by the rules, and we loved them dearly for it. At its core surfing is not Ross Williams in a collared shirt (no offense, Ross). The sport’s uniqueness and counterculture roots shouldn’t be suppressed to fit into a 30-second ad spot. It should be celebrated. When surfing is at its best, it’s exactly as Herb said: radical people doing radical shit.
Once when Andy lost a heat at Lowers, he came out of the water and headed into the athletes’ area like a bull in a china shop. Bruce guarded the door. He destroyed the place. F-bombs flew, boards were smashed, chairs thrown, at one point fire may have shot from his eyes. All the while there was Bruce, cross-armed in front of the door. Nobody was getting in. Andy was probably fined for it, but that passion and raw emotion was what made him a hero to so many. He was a radical guy and he did radical shit; pro surfing was never healthier than when he was around.
Thankfully Jeremy Flores came up a fan of both Andy and Bobby and appears to give not fucks.
On Sunday morning he wrote on Instagram, “Too funny now I see everyone posting shit about bad judging and all on social media everywhereeeee.... I’ve just been saying it for the last six years and got fined a million of times for asking explanations. Now everyone is finally waking up.
“The judging at the moment is way too amateur for how big the sport has become,” continues Flores. “We have contracts, debts, sponsors, bonuses; we dedicated our lives to this sport. We have all contributed to progressing our sport. Don’t get me wrong; it must be tough to be a judge, it’s a hard job, but if there isn’t good enough judging then there shouldn’t be that much money involved. Simple as that!”
It looks like the Hurley Pro is off for a couple days, it will be interesting to see where all this discussion leads.